Food: Secrets to homemade gourmet chocolates
The second day of November, and according to the music playing in department stores around town, it’s the unofficial start to holiday shopping. In the case of one Rhinelander woman, this time of year signals one thing: the beginning of the holiday candy making season.
When asked how long she has been making candy, Linda Krebsbach threw up her hands. “I don’t know – I have no idea,” she said. “A friend and I started out hosting candy parties in people’s homes, kind of like Tupperware parties, and it just took off from there.”
Then, she was melting chocolate in glass baby food jars in an electric skillet with water. Linda was making mostly molded candies, painted to fit whatever the buyers wanted. “I would bring samples for tasting, and show the molds and options and people would place orders.” Zoom ahead to today, and Linda’s talents are known throughout the Northwoods.
“I teach candy-making classes through the Community Education program,” Linda said. “People think making chocolates is an impossible task, but when they take part in creating them, they’re amazed at how easy it is.” Linda picks up many of her supplies at Bessey’s Meat Market and Bulk Foods. “They carry a very good brand of chocolate wafers, Merkens, and they melt well, too. For the recipes that call for caramel, I use the Peters brand, which can be bought in one pound chunks.”
Linda was a little hesitant to stray from her method of melting chocolate in baby food jars, even when microwaves became popular. But she has jumped on board completely with gizmos and gadgets from a website she loves, CountryKitchenSA.com. No need to use a kitchen spoon or toothpicks to dip chocolate, as dipping tools are widely available online.
Following are candy recipes Linda was kind enough to share, as well as a piece of advice: Never skimp on the ingredients. Buy the best chocolate available; the taste difference is noticeable!
Gourmet Chocolates Made at Home with Candy Wafers
How to melt candy coatings
MICROWAVE USE: place wafers in glass or plastic bowl. Microwave about 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave another 30 seconds. Stir. Continue to microwave for only a few seconds at a time. Stir between each time, until wafers are nearly melted. Remove from microwave and stir until all wafers are melted.
Peanut Butter Balls
Mix together 1 cup peanut butter and 1 cup powdered sugar. Mix with a mixer and then by hand until the filling holds together. Form filling into 1 inch balls and dip in melted chocolate. A tablespoon of softened butter may be added for creaminess.
Place caramel in a glass or plastic bowl. Microwave about 30 seconds. Stir in pecan pieces. You may want to microwave a few seconds more to get the caramel soft enough to work with. Using a scoop or spoon, place about a tablespoon of mixture on wax paper or parchment paper. Flatten to about ½ inch. Cool and dip in you favorite chocolate.
Melt chocolate and dip any shape pretzel in white, semi-sweet or milk chocolate. Sprinkle with assorted sprinkles.
Roll caramel into a strip and wrap around the pretzel rod. Roll the rod in your hand to smooth the caramel. Dip in melted chocolate and sprinkle with your choice of nuts, sprinkles, toffee bits or small chocolate chips.
Coconut Drops or Haystacks
Melt chocolate and add toasted coconut. Drop in mounds on wax paper or put in a small paper cup.
Caramel Macadamia Balls
Wrap caramel around macadamia nut. Dip in chocolate. Chocolate of another flavor may be drizzled on the top for decoration.
Melt chocolate and add any kind of nuts you like and drop on wax paper or into small baking cups.
Almond or Dried Raisin Barks
Melt one pound of chocolate. Add salted roasted pecans, macadamia nuts and dried raisins or peppermint candies that have been crushed.
Creamy Peppermint Patties
1 8 oz package of cream cheese softened
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
9 cups powdered sugar
In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese and extract until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well. Shape into 1” balls. Flatten into patties. Cover and refrigerate one hour. Melt chocolate wafers and dip.
Melt 1 pound white chocolate. While warm, sprinkle with diced apricots, dried cranberries and chopped pistachios.
8 oz cream cheese and 8 oz chocolate
Melt chocolate wafers. Beat cream cheese with a mixer. Stir in melted chocolate and refrigerate until firm. Scoop and form into small balls. Dip in more melted chocolate and decorate with sprinkles, finely chopped nuts or coconut or drizzle with more chocolate of a different color.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
Chocolate for dipping
Combine butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly till butter is melted. Continue cooking and stirring for 5-7 minutes or until candy is the color of almonds. Pour into pan. Break or cut in pieces after it cools. Dip in chocolate.
2 C powdered sugar
1.5 Tbsp Softened butter
2 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cream
8 oz (about 1 1/3 C) dark chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp vegetable shortening
Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with aluminum foil or waxed paper.
In a blender, cream together the sugar, butter, extracts and beat on low speed. Once combined, raise speed to a medium-high and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes until mixture holds together very well and is creamy, not powdery.
If your kitchen is warm or your candy is too soft to roll, place it in the refrigerator to set for about 20 minutes.
Using a teaspoon, roll the candy into small balls and flatten them on the waxed paper with the palm of your hand.
Place in the refrigerator to chill about 20 minutes.
Melt the chopped chocolate and the shortening in the microwave or over a double boiler and stir until fully incorporated.
Using dipping tools or two dinner forks, dip the patties into the chocolate one by one. Drag them across the lip of the bowl to remove any excess chocolate and replace them on the cookie sheet. Once all chocolates are dipped, put them in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set.
1 C butter
1/2 teasp vanilla
1 C sugar
1/4 t salt
Chocolate for dipping
Combine butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook over high heat stirring constantly til butter is melted. Continue cooking and stirring for 5-7 minutes or until candy is the color of almonds. Pour into pan. Break or cut in pieces after it cools. Dip each piece in melted chocolate.
2 C light brown sugar
4 teasp baking soda
2 C corn syrup
Chocolate for dipping
Cook sugar and syrup in large pan and heat to 290 degrees. Remove from heat and fold in baking soda. Pour immediately into a buttered 9×13 pan. Do not touch until cooled. Remove from pan and break into pieces. Dip in melted chocolate.